10 Things Rocking the Industry: October 2015



This 18k yellow gold and 58.25 ct. Australian Lightning Ridge opal cuff would certainly appeal to the stylish jewelry shopper. Margot McKinney, $65,000, margotmckinney.com

1. Consumers

How many customers shop Signet’s stores? Millions, though according to CEO Mark Light, you could also say: “Five.” America’s largest jeweler commissioned a study of its customers and found they are largely differentiated by attitude rather than by age or income. The categories include the sentimentalist (“likes high-quality jewelry with sentimental value and looks for timeless pieces that last”); the gifter (“doesn’t know much about jewelry and doesn’t enjoy the shopping experience, but knows they better buy some jewelry”); the stylish shopper (“wears jewelry often, and thinks about it as part of an outfit”); the influencer (“uses jewelry to show status, and cares very much about brands”); and the practical shopper (“a low-key purchaser who likes inexpensive jewelry and likes to wear it every day”). The research also found that trust, not surprisingly, is the leading factor in choosing a jeweler, uniting gifters and influencers alike.
 

2. Awards

More is more when it comes to the annual shockfest otherwise known as the MTV Video Music Awards, which went down Aug. 30 in Los Angeles—from Taylor Swift’s nine superstar dates (models Gigi Hadid, Cara Delevingne, and Karlie Kloss among them) to host Miley Cyrus’ 10 FCC-threatening outfits. Thankfully, the excess usually applies to jewelry as well: Rita Ora wore seven fi ngers’ worth of black and white diamonds from red-carpet sister act Lorraine Schwartz and Ofira Sandberg; Nicki Minaj piled on gold Zoë Chicco cuffs and rings in openwork styles that echoed her peekaboo La Bourjoisie gilded dress; and Vanessa Hudgens was a boho thing of beauty in a mixed stack of diamond wristwear and Jacquie Aiche’s hippie-chic Squash Blossom necklace, moonstone bodychain, and Sweet Leaf hoop earrings. In our book, she even outshone the sequins and confetti that (hardly) covered Cyrus.
 

3. Apple 

When Apple recruited former TAG Heuer exec Patrick Pruniaux to sell its new watch, many wondered if the smart device would ever be sold at traditional jewelers. The answer, it turns out, is yes. On Aug. 21, London Jewelers became the first U.S. jewelry store to carry the much-hyped smartwatch. Currently, the Long Island chain is getting limited bites of the Apple: The hightech timepiece is available at just two of its fi ve stores, and for now, they are selling only the most expensive model, the 18k gold Edition, which retails for $10,000–$17,000. But London remains a member of a very exclusive club: Besides Apple’s own stores, the only other U.S. retailers carrying the watch are high-end L.A. boutique Maxfi eld and electronics chain Best Buy.

 

4. Majors

Oops! Bloomingdale’s mistakenly issued gift cards— some as high as $25,000—instead of loyalty points to a number of customers in an email blast on Aug. 14. The company canceled the cards and any orders made with them and apologized to those affected, though some customers wanted more than an apology. “One thing that most customers expect is that if you make a mistake, even one of this magnitude, you will honor it,” wrote one customer on Facebook. Another avoided that dilemma by doing his shopping in person, walking away with $17,000 in designer goods, including a $10,000 pair of diamond studs. Bloomingdale’s asked him to return the items and offered a $100 gift card in exchange. He told BuzzFeed he was still thinking about it.

 

5. Gemstones

The 72 ct. Virgin Rainbow, an opal whose swirling kaleidoscope of colors has earned it the designation “the finest opal ever,” is being displayed publicly for the first time at the South Australian Museum in Adelaide, part of an exhibit on the native gemstone that kicked off in September. “It’s almost as if there’s a fire in [the stone]; you see all different colors,” museum director Brian Oldman told the AFP news agency. “It’s quite an amazing trick of nature.” Longtime opal dealer Frank Farnsworth, owner of Parlé Jewelry Design in Pocatello, Idaho, says pictures of the Virgin Rainbow look impressive, but he’s still skeptical: “Over the years I’ve seen a lot of people who claim to have found the world’s best opal. Every opal is different. That is why they are so hard to match. So who is to say what is best, anyway?”

 

6. Diamonds

The note was short and not-so-sweet: “We reasonably suspect that stones submitted under your client account, and other accounts for which we believe you to be partnered, have been inscribed with preexisting GIA report numbers that were not issued for the particular stones being submitted and that GIA did not inscribe,” said the letter from GIA lab director Tom Moses to Surat, India–based Cristy Gems and four related companies. “This has occurred on a number of occasions, indicating a pattern of intentional conduct.” (Cristy Gems did not respond to requests for comment.) As a result, the companies can no longer submit to the influential lab. The letter was released the same week the Bharat Diamond Bourse suspended a Mumbai diamond company and four of its directors for nondisclosure of synthetics—suggesting that in these troubled times, some companies may be doing troubling things.

 

7. Executives

After 13 years heading the Jewelers Board of Trade, president Dione Kenyon announced she will retire next year. The former head of Fleet’s precious metals division turns 62 in February and says her retirement was “a personal decision but a hard one. This is an all-in job. I found myself at this time in my life wanting to pursue interests that I’ve had but couldn’t pursue while working full-time.” The timing of Kenyon’s retirement will depend on when the Providence, R.I.–based group hires her replacement; a search committee has been appointed to look for a new president. Regardless, Kenyon says she plans to keep up her industry friendships and associations: “I have been involved with JBT for 25 years. You don’t just walk away from that.”

 

8. Brands

So far this year, Pandora has trimmed 250 U.S. retailers from its network, and the charm maker has indicated that’s not all: “Expect us to continue to close unbranded stores and keep opening concept stores,” said executive vice president and chief financial offi cer Peter Vekslund on an Aug. 10 earnings call. Amid all this, rival charm brand Alex and Ani is encroaching on its territory: This September, Jared, which also sells Pandora, announced it will test the millennial-focused “positive energy” line in 108 of its stores.

 

9. Twitter

In August, a teenager named Chelsea Smith shook the world—at least, the world that pays attention to Twitter—with her duh observation about earring backs: “After my 19 years of living I have now realized that you are supposed to take the plastic part off.” Her comment garnered an immediate reaction: “It only took me 33 years AND YOUR TWEET,” one person replied. “You mean I’ve been living a lie all this time,” wrote another. The pithy little message was retweeted 44,000 times, and favorited another 42,000, sparking stories on the Today show and across the Internet. Matthew Perosi, founder and CEO of the Jeweler Website Advisory Group, says the episode shows the power of social media to drive conversation: “There are a lot of jewelers who overthink social media. It can just be a tidbit of knowledge, or saying, ‘Look at this cool thing.’ ”

 

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10. Stats

The University of Michigan’s measure of consumer confi dence fell in August, amid trouble in Asia and a volatile stock market. Survey director Richard Curtin attributed the downturn in part to the market’s late-August mini-crash, but noted that a similar dip after the 1987 crash didn’t last. “Consumers quickly dismissed [that] episode since it didn’t involve their jobs or incomes,” he said in a statement. “Today’s consumers hold similar favorable views about their job and income prospects.”